ethics of technical to marketing writing

Subject: ethics of technical to marketing writing
From: Steven Owens <uso01 -at- MAILHOST -dot- UNIDATA -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 11:06:51 -0600

Anatole Wison says:
> There are no ethical concerns for technical writing that do not also apply
> for marketing writing. Mis-representing a product in any way is just as
> unethical in marketing writing as it is in technical writing.

Anatole, where are you going with this whole thread? You seem to be
championing a personal cause to defend or advance the image of marketing
writing. Is this from a perceived negative image associated with
marketing, or do you have another destination in mind?

I think I understand how to write persuasively as well as how to write
informatively, and I think I understand the difference between them.
Yes, technical writing and marketing have some things in common, but
they have a lot that's not in common.

Both technical writing and marketing writing require an understanding of
the product. Both require you to convey that understanding to the reader.
But they have different ends in mind.

Technical writing -> Understand how to use the Product.

Marketing writing -> Understand how you can benefit from the Product.

To achieve this aim, both technical and marketing writing must first
convey a basic understanding of the product. I've noticed that
marketing writing has an overwhelming tendency to try to leap straight
to the benefits part. In most cases where they DO take the time to go
through the "understand the product" stage, they almost always seem to
take pains to OBFUSCATE rather than explain. This is what I find most
annoying about reading marketing material.

I have no ethical problem with marketing, but frankly there are different
motivations on the writer's part and that influences the type of writing.
The technical writer assumes the reader's goal is to be able to use the
product, and works from there. The marketing writer is actively trying
to shape the reader's goal.

Despite any fluff about "You can feel good about what you're doing
because your product really is high quality and it's in the reader's
best interest to purchase it", it boils down to the marketing writer
trying to influence the reader's decision, and the technical writer
trying to facilitate the reader's decision.

Both technical writing and marketing must be persuasive, but they have
different ends:

Technical writing must persuade the reader to LEARN.

Marketing writing must persuade the reader to BUY.

Steven J. Owens
uso01 -at- unidata -dot- com

p.s. I have no problem with "enthusiasm for the product" in my
writing, which is what I assume you're referring to in the Quicken
manual. Ufortunately, too often that's associated with marketing and
deliberately filtered from professional documentation - resulting in a
dry, impersonal book with no character of its own.

Perhaps we can start another thread here; what do you (list members)
think of the idea of making a book more "personable", to more
effectively engage the reader's imagination?

Standard practice seems to be for the writer to be invisible,
ego-less. For a reference work, perhaps, but what about tutorials,
introductory pieces, etc?

What about using expressions and turns of phrase that are not generic,
but rather specific to the writer's, ahem, prose?

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